Tom Burton2

The Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission asked me to organize a mini-folk festival on the capitol grounds in Nashville in the early 1970’s. Arlie Watson, Ora Payne, Willard Watson, and another area craftsman agreed to participate. At the last moment the craftsman backed out because of physical reasons. I didn’t know quite what to do, so I went to Ray and Rosie’s house in the middle of the night to ask if they could possibly go on such short notice, Of course, they really didn’t want to go, but as a favor to me they said they would. The very next day, I returned in a borrowed International Travelal, picked up Ray and Rosie, a copper kettle and several bags of apples, and we made our way to Nashville. Another time, I returned Ray home about midnight in a State car, thinking I could find a gas station open somewhere near the Beech. I was running on fumes when I reached Ray’s house atop Tom’s Knob. Ray got out of the car, went to the shed, and brought out his chainsaw gas with enough to get me back home—Ray, saving my bacon once again.

Another rescue was in the early ’60s when four of his kids were on their way home in a heavy snowstorm. Their school had closed early, and the school bus in which they were riding was hit by a State truck. Finally on their way again, the bus couldn’t make it up Worley Bank and were pulled uphill by some type of State snowplow.  By that time, Ray was out looking for his kids. He walked up the road to his uncle Ben’s house, and on the back end of Ben’s tractor the two continued the search. They caught up with the bus at Laurel Creek, and Ray boarded the bus to the delight of all the children who cried out to him to tell them a Jack Tale. First, he had to thaw out a little; but in a short time Ray became aware that the bus was moving too close to the edge of a precipice and yelled for the driver to stop. Ray helped to maneuver the bus out of danger, and it was able to go on as far as the Farthings’ house, where Ray’s kids and two other school children spent the night. Ray, on the other hand, walked home to return the following morning when the roads were cleared. Interestingly, a TV crew was there to watch the kids load up in Ray’s car,

And that wasn’t even the first time Ray had rescued his kids in a snowstorm. For instance, once before, the kids had been ordered incredibly off the school bus when it could not continue any farther. Ray’s daughter Dorothy Jean says her father was always out looking for them when they were delayed from school in the snow. That was just Ray.

Tom Burton, Professor Emeritus, ETSU; Johnson City, TN